Dear Ross Douthat:
Your New York Times Op Ed piece on June 28, 2014 offers three ways American colleges could get to the root of the problem of campus sexual assault, thereby having fewer sexual assaults going through the often criticized campus judiciary process that was originally meant to handle minor infractions.
We share your desire to make sexual assault harder to accomplish rather than service victims’ post-abuse lives (what you call “after-the-fact responses”).
We also share your skepticism that our society will lower the drinking age (the first of your three solutions), or that universities will weaken the college party scene (solution #2). Your third solution is to go back to a gender-neutral version of the old sex-segregated, chaperoned campus.
Of course sex segregation, curfews, and less unsupervised partying would technically give men less opportunity to rape—but only because it would give them less opportunity to hook up with women (in consensual encounters or otherwise). We therefore suggest a different way to stop rape on campus: teach women self-defense. Let’s embrace women’s ability to say yes and to say no and mean it–and enforce it if necessary. Part of self-defense training can be about alcohol consumption. Part of it can be about how to shout “no” forcefully, and how to back up that verbal self-defense with physical self-defense when necessary.
Mr. Douthat, we agree with you that society is not helpless to stop sexual assault. But neither are women.
Martha McCaughey and Jill Cermele